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Feb 23, 2011 03:59 PM

Identify an Indian Spice

There is a spice used in South Asian cooking that smells, to me anyway, like cola (as in Pepsi or Coca Cola, although it is more like Pepsi than Coke). Anyone know what I am talking about? What is this spice called?

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    1. re: boogiebaby

      I don't think that's it -- unless the aroma changes dramatically when it's cooked.

      Asafoetida has a musty smell. The spice I am thinking of has a very fresh smell.

    2. any chance it's cardamom or fenugreek? it might help if you could identify any particular dishes where you notice it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        Funny -- I was about to write that it's not cardamom, fenugreek, or tamarind. But based on your suggestion, I dug through the recycling bin and found a package of spice mix that I used a few days ago for a dish that had the aroma. I had assumed that the individual spices wouldn't be listed, but it turns out they are:
        red chilli, salt, coriander, cumin seed, black pepper, turmeric, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, bay leaf, ginger.

        At first glance, none of those ingredients seems to explain the aroma.
        But, luckily, I had a bag of black cardamom that's been sitting in the cabinet for probably 1 1/2 or 2 years. I've never smelt it until now. I opened the bag and took a whiff. I think that's where that aroma may be coming from. (Although this particular bag is a bit old, so maybe not quite as fresh -- I'll have to get some fresh black cardamom.)

        I was very familiar with green cardamom because I've been cooking with it for years.
        But black cardamom has a very different smell. So, yes, I think that's what it is.

        1. re: racer x

          ah, meant to specify black cardamom! smoky & earthy, it's completely different from floral & citrus-heavy green cardamom.

          glad you solved the mystery - these things always drive me nuts until i figure them out :)

      2. I vote for fenugreek or tamarind. Fenugreek is used in artificial maple flavoring and tamarind, a fruit that is also sold dried, is sometimes made into a cola-like drink.

        1. It could be ground coriander or the combination of ground coriander and cinnamon. Those are commonly reported ingredients of Coca Cola and Pepsi and common ingredients of garam masalas.